Smart labeling seeks to streamline produce traceability

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Smart labeling seeks to streamline produce traceability

Five years into the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), North American fresh distributors are getting their standard labeling practices in line and finding the best methods to track product.manzanas-en-bins_86754727

ToolWorx Information Products, Inc. of Brighton, Michigan has arisen as a solutions-oriented company, directed at implementing lot tracking and error proofing according to PTI guidelines.

Sales and marketing vice president Ed Weber explained the U.S. company's recently patented SmartVision™ system, developed for PTI-compliant labeling. The technology eliminates the need for computers or mobile devices by allowing growers to identify produce in containers with standard markings and automatically print the appropriate labeling.

With a dual computer and printer, Intermec Smart Printers, the technology streamlines the labeling process.

"The reason we got into this is that we’re an error proofing company. So we looked at it from a label error proofing perspective. How can we take the human error out of it? And the way to do it is to take humans out of it. So it’s all computerized and automated," Weber explained to

"The alternative then becomes pre-printing labels. You hand them out to people on a roll and you hope they get the right label on the right box."

SmartPTI TechnologyToolworx's system carries out the leg work in what can otherwise become a confusing process.

"What we did is create a system where the camera can recognize really any kind of graphic, any kind of marking on the side of a box. And we used this Intermec Smart Printer so the camera is plugged into the bar code printer itself, which is also acting as a computer," Weber said.

"The software is basically interpreting what the camera sees and says, 'Oh, you’re a box of Red Delicious apples. That’s G1012345. Somebody already set up the lot,' and out comes the label."

The technology coincides with Walmart's recent announcement that starting Nov. 1 all fresh produce delivered to the store's distribution centers must come with standardized case labels outlined by PTI. The standards seek to create case-level electronic traceability across the produce industry.

With pressure on from such a major player, Weber explained that growers and distributors are now taking PTI guidelines more seriously and on the look out for more efficient technology.

"Phase one [of adopting a smart system] will be people who see the future and say, 'I need to error proof.  I don’t want to make a mistake.' But the majority will pre-print until they make a mistake," he said.

"Then when they get that big sign from Walmart and they start getting all of their produce returned, they start scratching their heads thinking, ‘This isn’t working.’ The idea is that we catch people on both sides."

The technology is currently in a pilot phase. With experience in the automotive and medical industries, Weber said Toolworx hopes to make its next splash in the produce industry through this smart system.

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